Sunday, July 24, 2011

So Why Have Primals? or Relive? What's the Point?

Apart from the obvious answer of not living in pain and not being driven incessantly by unconscious forces there is even a more compelling reason—living longer and healthier. This is even more true of reliving the first line—the very early imprints that are more or less devastating. I want to explain why it is so necessary.

We know now that imprints during gestation, at birth and in early infancy carry a whopping impact, and that force is constantly rummaging around low down in the brain where it creates havoc and drives us unmercifully to act-out or to explode in anger at the slightest input. That imprint or imprints wears down organ systems and deviates the normal operation of key systems; the neurologic, immune, circulatory, and so on. And so too soon we fall ill of heart problems, immune problems or blood circulation difficulties.

But more important when there is almost constant anger eruptions driven by first line then a stroke is in the offing. How do we know that it is first line? Because as I have written many times, a little annoyance on the third line in the present, someone doesn’t move fast enough for us; to a real anger on the second line that makes us rip out someone: and finally pure fury and out-of-control anger that emanates from the first line tells us what line the person is on.

So there is slight emotion in the present resonating with similar but stronger feelings on the second-line, and finally pure fury or terror on the first line. That is the contribution each line contributes to a feeling. Now, when there is an out of control feeling from low down we have to keep it down all of the time. If we don’t have enough internally manufactured repressants such as serotonin, we have to buy them. If we cannot go to our internal pharmacy and order it we have to travel to one around the block and order it. The first is automatically done for us; when there is great pain the system knows it and supplies substantial painkillers, but sometimes the set points have been changed and there just isn’t enough to kill it completely.

These eruptions of anger in a person can be suppressed with drugs and pills but it will kill us, nevertheless. And the way it will kill us is mostly by cerebral stroke. The pain and its energy will rise up into the brain and destroy cells. In my view, the only way to prolong our lives is to relive and exorcise and expurgate that pain and its energy, finally vitiating its force and calming us. “Did he die of a stroke?” Yes, that is the proximal cause, but the ultimate cause is first-line pain. If someone is constantly losing his temper, beyond his control, we can pretty well believe that he is destined for a stroke or heart attack. It can be prevented, not by a cerebral therapy that uses the neocortex to do what serotonin does—repress, but by an experiential therapy that digs out very deep, underlying forces.

All of what I am writing is based on the notion of resonance; how each level in its own way represents a single feeling. Adding emotion or great energy to a feeling. As we evolve from the womb on there are radiating nervous circuits higher up that take on the feeling and add their take to it. And it also happens from the top down; something in the present causes a resonance, dipping down deeply to add to the force of a feeling. So a slight misunderstanding in the present can only set off deeper violent forces if they are already there, imprinted. Without that pain there probably won’t be that force that drives unceasingly. Of course we can be angry or fearful but without first line being involved there will be not murderous angry or paralyzing terror. If we stop therapy early, having resolved a lot of second line emotional pain, there still may be a significant residue of unresolved first line to deal with. It has to be address and integrated.


  1. Art,

    This blow is the response I get from SBU... National Center for Health Care in Swedwn. They ask for what? I do not know ... I hope you can answer me on what it is they need to be able to investigate what primal therapy include. It’s look like… if we can give then sceintific data it will do to consider a report on PT. What will do as scintific data?


    One last time: SBU does not consider people generally like, but estimates published scientific data. If you can present some such and we will gladly consider a report on primal therapy.

    Jan Liliemark SBU

  2. Art - I'll understand if you don't allow this posting, since you may not want to comment in detail, but this piece was pretty scary for me to read as I had a relatively mild stroke 3 yrs ago! 20-42% of stroke patients in the UK have a further stroke within 5 yrs (across age and gender). Luckily, I'm coming to your Center this winter, so I guess that's the best chance I have. I don't think of myself as an angry person, even though several other patients tell me they think I'm sitting on a lot. I turned my life round in 20 yrs of PT, even more quickly becoming no longer suicidal. I guess I'm a classic example of what you write about.

    I have no memory of the stroke, and wonder if patients 'relive' them - how does the brain deal with the experience? I'm also curious about the blood pressure issue - if it can go over 200 approaching a birth primal, what happens with people who've had strokes - or am I going to find out!

    It wasn't just the stroke that made me want to pick up the therapy again. I saw a friend I knew well, who'd been through all those yrs of therapy with me, after 6 mths with you, and the difference was remarkable - so much less pain in his face, and his personality so much more integrated.

    The blog has discussed quite a bit why the mainstream doesn't pick up the achievements of PT and its importance for humanity. But hopefully it's not so long before it's effect on longevity traits won't be able to be ignored.

    Your blog and everyone's postings is so good, so keep it up all! Maybe I'll meet some of you over this winter.

  3. Hi,
    -"The pain and its energy will rise up into the brain and destroy cells. In my view, the only way to prolong our lives is to relive and exorcise and expurgate that pain and its energy, finally vitiating its force and calming us".

    This is the way to real non violence both against oneself and others. All else is a behavioural sermon.

    Sorry, I'm preaching.

    Paul G.

  4. I would imagine having and exercising a temper can be important for relieving tension. I never feel better than when I have had an intense temper tantrum. Unfortunately social integration issues force me to supress it and I know this takes a toll on me. It would be wonderful to be able to be as relaxed as I am after a rage expression but not have to rage. PT!

    Andrew Atkin
    (and writing from my cellphone).

  5. From a personal place (so again not something I expect or would care if you pass on to your blog-audience):

    What you are pointing out here could not be more relevant to me! :<

    Even if I might actually have some "legitimate" doubts about some of your most tenuously extrapolated primal therapeutic interpretations [some that too tenuously hold out a hope to people about their (some people's) capacity to dissolve Pain (or, IOW, dispel CURSES) from the brain/CNS (or central neural actention selection serving system)], this does not mean that I don't also see and know how massively relevant and generally truth-revealing and at least potentially beneficial the bulk of your reflections, insights and interpretations, are.

  6. Tony in one week the new book will be out that discusses all this. After reading it ask me the question again. good luck see you soon. art

  7. Frank: not sure what they want. I published two years ago in a peer reviewed scientific journal (journal of pre and perinatal psychology (health) ) art janov

  8. An email comment:
    ""If we stop therapy early, having resolved a lot of second line emotional pain, there still may be a significant residue of unresolved first line to deal with. It has to be address and integrated".

    WHERE is the GOOD news! I don't hear that. All I hear is the symptoms and explanations, which is wonderful, but goodness, can't we have some light in the tunnel here Dr. Janov? We FOLLOW your insights enthusiastically, but WHERE is the consoling part to the ones far away, trying to DEAL with it as best they can? What about the remote people like me, not IN primal therapy for obvious logistic reasons, but surrendering IN their pain, hoping that somehow the body will first-line-ly heal itself naturally, however long it takes? It's a too tall order for most, and those embarking on this excruciating journey alone deserves 100 medals for perseverance!

    Is every first line rage I get following a trigger NOT part of healing? Is that not releasing some of the first line energy? Please give me some feedback here so that I don't despair too much and so that I KNOW that I make SOME sort of progress. I take NO blooming tablets to stop these devastating rage & angst symptoms!! I need encouragement."

  9. My answer: Of course you are right. But no, rage solves nothing until it is connected to its original context; to its prototype which set up the whole reaction, in the first place. The feeling got its start somewhere. We need to revisit that somewhere. The good news is that you can get rid of all that pain. Isn't that nice? Of course, I cannot set up in South Africa but help does exist in the world, and if help for my condition exist ed in deep Africa or India I would be there tomorrow. Look on the good side: it exists and help is there. art janov

  10. Tony When the time comes, we will work closely with your neurologist and discuss in detail with you and the doctor what is involved. art janov.


Review of "Beyond Belief"

This thought-provoking and important book shows how people are drawn toward dangerous beliefs.
“Belief can manifest itself in world-changing ways—and did, in some of history’s ugliest moments, from the rise of Adolf Hitler to the Jonestown mass suicide in 1979. Arthur Janov, a renowned psychologist who penned The Primal Scream, fearlessly tackles the subject of why and how strong believers willingly embrace even the most deranged leaders.
Beyond Belief begins with a lucid explanation of belief systems that, writes Janov, “are maps, something to help us navigate through life more effectively.” While belief systems are not presented as inherently bad, the author concentrates not just on why people adopt belief systems, but why “alienated individuals” in particular seek out “belief systems on the fringes.” The result is a book that is both illuminating and sobering. It explores, for example, how a strongly-held belief can lead radical Islamist jihadists to murder others in suicide acts. Janov writes, “I believe if people had more love in this life, they would not be so anxious to end it in favor of some imaginary existence.”
One of the most compelling aspects of Beyond Belief is the author’s liberal use of case studies, most of which are related in the first person by individuals whose lives were dramatically affected by their involvement in cults. These stories offer an exceptional perspective on the manner in which belief systems can take hold and shape one’s experiences. Joan’s tale, for instance, both engaging and disturbing, describes what it was like to join the Hare Krishnas. Even though she left the sect, observing that participants “are stunted in spiritual awareness,” Joan considers returning someday because “there’s a certain protection there.”
Janov’s great insight into cultish leaders is particularly interesting; he believes such people have had childhoods in which they were “rejected and unloved,” because “only unloved people want to become the wise man or woman (although it is usually male) imparting words of wisdom to others.” This is just one reason why Beyond Belief is such a thought-provoking, important book.”
Barry Silverstein, Freelance Writer

Quotes for "Life Before Birth"

“Life Before Birth is a thrilling journey of discovery, a real joy to read. Janov writes like no one else on the human mind—engaging, brilliant, passionate, and honest.
He is the best writer today on what makes us human—he shows us how the mind works, how it goes wrong, and how to put it right . . . He presents a brand-new approach to dealing with depression, emotional pain, anxiety, and addiction.”
Paul Thompson, PhD, Professor of Neurology, UCLA School of Medicine

Art Janov, one of the pioneers of fetal and early infant experiences and future mental health issues, offers a robust vision of how the earliest traumas of life can percolate through the brains, minds and lives of individuals. He focuses on both the shifting tides of brain emotional systems and the life-long consequences that can result, as well as the novel interventions, and clinical understanding, that need to be implemented in order to bring about the brain-mind changes that can restore affective equanimity. The transitions from feelings of persistent affective turmoil to psychological wholeness, requires both an understanding of the brain changes and a therapist that can work with the affective mind at primary-process levels. Life Before Birth, is a manifesto that provides a robust argument for increasing attention to the neuro-mental lives of fetuses and infants, and the widespread ramifications on mental health if we do not. Without an accurate developmental history of troubled minds, coordinated with a recognition of the primal emotional powers of the lowest ancestral regions of the human brain, therapists will be lost in their attempt to restore psychological balance.
Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.
Bailey Endowed Chair of Animal Well Being Science
Washington State University

Dr. Janov’s essential insight—that our earliest experiences strongly influence later well being—is no longer in doubt. Thanks to advances in neuroscience, immunology, and epigenetics, we can now see some of the mechanisms of action at the heart of these developmental processes. His long-held belief that the brain, human development, and psychological well being need to studied in the context of evolution—from the brainstem up—now lies at the heart of the integration of neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Grounded in these two principles, Dr. Janov continues to explore the lifelong impact of prenatal, birth, and early experiences on our brains and minds. Simultaneously “old school” and revolutionary, he synthesizes traditional psychodynamic theories with cutting-edge science while consistently highlighting the limitations of a strict, “top-down” talking cure. Whether or not you agree with his philosophical assumptions, therapeutic practices, or theoretical conclusions, I promise you an interesting and thought-provoking journey.
Lou Cozolino, PsyD, Professor of Psychology, Pepperdine University

In Life Before Birth Dr. Arthur Janov illuminates the sources of much that happens during life after birth. Lucidly, the pioneer of primal therapy provides the scientific rationale for treatments that take us through our original, non-verbal memories—to essential depths of experience that the superficial cognitive-behavioral modalities currently in fashion cannot possibly touch, let alone transform.
Gabor Maté MD, author of In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction

An expansive analysis! This book attempts to explain the impact of critical developmental windows in the past, implores us to improve the lives of pregnant women in the present, and has implications for understanding our children, ourselves, and our collective future. I’m not sure whether primal therapy works or not, but it certainly deserves systematic testing in well-designed, assessor-blinded, randomized controlled clinical trials.
K.J.S. Anand, MBBS, D. Phil, FAACP, FCCM, FRCPCH, Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Anatomy & Neurobiology, Senior Scholar, Center for Excellence in Faith and Health, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare System

A baby's brain grows more while in the womb than at any time in a child's life. Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script That Rules Our Lives is a valuable guide to creating healthier babies and offers insight into healing our early primal wounds. Dr. Janov integrates the most recent scientific research about prenatal development with the psychobiological reality that these early experiences do cast a long shadow over our entire lifespan. With a wealth of experience and a history of successful psychotherapeutic treatment, Dr. Janov is well positioned to speak with clarity and precision on a topic that remains critically important.
Paula Thomson, PsyD, Associate Professor, California State University, Northridge & Professor Emeritus, York University

"I am enthralled.
Dr. Janov has crafted a compelling and prophetic opus that could rightly dictate
PhD thesis topics for decades to come. Devoid of any "New Age" pseudoscience,
this work never strays from scientific orthodoxy and yet is perfectly accessible and
downright fascinating to any lay person interested in the mysteries of the human psyche."
Dr. Bernard Park, MD, MPH

His new book “Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” shows that primal therapy, the lower-brain therapeutic method popularized in the 1970’s international bestseller “Primal Scream” and his early work with John Lennon, may help alleviate depression and anxiety disorders, normalize blood pressure and serotonin levels, and improve the functioning of the immune system.
One of the book’s most intriguing theories is that fetal imprinting, an evolutionary strategy to prepare children to cope with life, establishes a permanent set-point in a child's physiology. Baby's born to mothers highly anxious during pregnancy, whether from war, natural disasters, failed marriages, or other stressful life conditions, may thus be prone to mental illness and brain dysfunction later in life. Early traumatic events such as low oxygen at birth, painkillers and antidepressants administered to the mother during pregnancy, poor maternal nutrition, and a lack of parental affection in the first years of life may compound the effect.
In making the case for a brand-new, unified field theory of psychotherapy, Dr. Janov weaves together the evolutionary theories of Jean Baptiste Larmarck, the fetal development studies of Vivette Glover and K.J.S. Anand, and fascinating new research by the psychiatrist Elissa Epel suggesting that telomeres—a region of repetitive DNA critical in predicting life expectancy—may be significantly altered during pregnancy.
After explaining how hormonal and neurologic processes in the womb provide a blueprint for later mental illness and disease, Dr. Janov charts a revolutionary new course for psychotherapy. He provides a sharp critique of cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, and other popular “talk therapy” models for treating addiction and mental illness, which he argues do not reach the limbic system and brainstem, where the effects of early trauma are registered in the nervous system.
“Life Before Birth: The Hidden Script that Rules Our Lives” is scheduled to be published by NTI Upstream in October 2011, and has tremendous implications for the future of modern psychology, pediatrics, pregnancy, and women’s health.